College Football: Tar Heels ranked; Irish aren’t
CHAPEL HILL ó North Carolina is back in The Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in seven years.
The Tar Heels are ranked 22nd in the AP poll after beating previously unbeaten Connecticut 38-12 on Saturday night, giving them their first win against a ranked opponent in three years.
Now, North Carolina is ranked for the first time since the 2001 season, when John Bunting’s first squad appeared at No. 22 for one week before falling out after a loss at Georgia Tech.
The Tar Heels play Notre Dame this weekend, which will be the first time the programs have met when North Carolina is ranked and the Fighting Irish are not. It will also be North Carolina’s first home game as a ranked team in a decade ó the last time coming in a season-opening loss in 1998.
But coach Butch Davis didn’t give much emphasis to the ranking Sunday.
“The season is not over,” he said. “We clearly haven’t accomplished the goals that we set out at the beginning of the season. I don’t think they give any trophies for a Week 5 ranking.”
SOUTH BEND, Ind. ó Notre Dame’s 4-1 start doesn’t measure up to the 27 other seasons in which the Irish had one loss in the first five games.
The difference: This time they’re unranked.
Every other season in which the Fighting Irish were either 4-1 or 3-1-1, they were ranked. The Irish were rated as high as No. 4 in 1942 and 1965, as low as No. 18 in 1998, and had an average ranking of No. 10 during those seasons.
On Sunday, Regis Philbin’s alma mater got six votes in The Associated Press poll, 91 votes fewer than No. 25 Ball State, the fellow Indiana school best known for being David Letterman’s alma mater.
Irish coach Charlie Weis isn’t worried, though. He believes his team, which started last year 0-5, is on the cusp of being ranked.
“You’re one of the team that’s in the mix in that conversation piece,” he said.
It’s not difficult to understand why the Irish didn’t crack the Top 25. None of the previous ranked Notre Dame teams averaged as few as the 103 yards a game rushing, as this year’s squad is.
The Irish are ranked 84th nationally in total defense. The only ranked Irish team that rated lower five games into the season was the 2005 squad that ranked 95th. But that team averaged 504 yards a game in total offense through five games, 151 yards a game more than this year’s squad.
The key for the Irish defensively is to play well more consistently, Weis said.